Rise of the Runelords

Breaking Barl's Bones
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 8

Sunday, 17 Kuthona, 4733

Having reunited with their elven allies Shalelu Andosana and Captain Galodar, the Rune Wardens spent a cold and lonely night in the foothills. As dawn breaks faintly through the thick layer of unnatural rain clouds, the adventurers rise and prepare to ascend Hook Mountain for the attack on the Kreeg ogre clanhold.

Shalelu leads the party up the ogre’s hunting paths, while Amelia scouts ahead on her hippogriff. The wind and falling snow proves challenging to navigate, but she manages to spy the cave entrance to the Kreeg clanhold about a half a mile down from the summit. Smoke pours out of the opening and other smaller vents in the hillside. Two ogre brutes in heavy furs stand guard outside. Amelia reports this to the party then flies ahead with her hippogriff and hunkers down to wait for the others to catch up.

As the adventurers ascend the mountain, Astrid stealthily scouts ahead through the snow and fog. A lumbering shape with two lumps on its shoulder looms out at her—an ettin! Astrid charges towards it and cuts it to pieces with her double sword Echo before it can sound the alarm.

The party regroups at Amelia’s position and determines their next move. The bard proposes a bold plan for infiltrating the clanhold and heading straight for Barl Breakbones, the stone giant lord of Hook Mountain.

Following the plan, Astrid and the elves quietly approach the cave entrance through the snow and howling wind. Amelia, meanwhile, casts glibness upon herself and brazenly leads the rest of the party straight up to the cave. The ogre guards demand to know who they are.

“Ho there, friend!” the bard calls out to the ogre guards as they approach.

“Now what’s all this, then?” one of the guards shouts back.

“Reportin’ back to Barl after a mission,” Amelia says in her best ogre accent.

The ogre narrows his beady eyes. “I ain’t heard nothin’ ’bout no mission.”

“Need to know,” Amelia tells him. “Infiltratin’ the humans.”

“Are you sayin’ that underneath those pointy ears beats the red-blooded heart of an ogre?” the guard asks incredulously.

‘You know it!" she grins back. "Can’t you tell? Best enchantment there is."

The ogres buy her story hook line and sinker, inviting Amelia and the others out of the cold and advising them that there is some sweet tea on the fire once they are done reporting to Barl. While the guards’ attention is focused on the new arrivals, Astrid and the two elves stealthily slip inside the cavern.

The entryway to the Kreeg clanhold is impressive. The adventurers must stride beneath the 20-foot high rib bones of an enormous, long-dead creature. Beyond them, in a great domed cavern, is a gargantuan statue clad in jewel studded armor. The statue has ebony skin riven with cracks and fissures. It’s face is hidden beneath a demon-headed helmet, while its had grasps a glaive. Around its neck hangs an immense Sihedrun medallion. Not much farther down the passage is a foul smelling deep pit, which the adventurers assume is the clan’s cesspool.

Beyond the pit they reach a four-way intersection guarded by two ogres and a dim-witted hill giant named Lunderbud. Amelia repeats her story on the ogres, convincing them thoroughly. Lunderbud spots Astrid skulking around in the dark, but the ogres dismiss him as a dumbass. While they explain to Amelia that the hill giant is so dumb that he thinks he’s an ogre, Astrid and the elves sneak past. The rest of the party follow, heading down the corridor to the right.

They ignore the two passages leading down to the left and approach the end of the tunnel, where it makes a sharp right turn. Astrid stealthily creeps forward to peer around the corner. The tunnel opens out in a gigantic chamber that slopes upward between two ledges. Above, the ceiling opens to the slate gray sky above.

The ramp leads up to an enormous stone throne, on which the stone giant lord Barl Breakbones is seated. He is listening to the red haired woman standing beside the throne. Two other stone giant bodyguards stand nearby, while the ogre attendants wait nervously. Barely visible to Astrid are several alcoves at the far back of the cave, where she hopes that Prince Eldrin is being held.

After she relays her discovery to the party, they come up with a plan of attack. Marcus casts fly and mirror image on himself and enlarge person on Lea. Zavian casts silence on one of Astrid’s arrows, hoping she can get close enough to disrupt Barl’s spell casting. Astrid begins to stealthily infiltrate the chamber. Barl’s eyes flicker in her direction. Sensing that something is amiss, he orders one of his guards to investigate.

Zavian uses stone shape to seal off the tunnel to the throne room and the attack begins. Marcus swoops into the room and hurls a fireball at the throne. Barl and Lucrecia are singed, while the three ogre attendants are incinerated. The ground rumbles as the enlarged Lea strides into the chamber and challenges Barl.

The giant lord dismissively orders his minions to deal with the intruders, then casts a spell upon himself. Zavian enters the room and calls down holy fire on the throne. Astrid and the two elves fire arrows at the stone giant bodyguards as the giants grab boulders and hurl them at the adventurers. Amelia attempts to charm one of the giants, but it shakes off her spell.

From her perch beside the throne, Lucrecia dusts off some of the ashes. She invites the Rune Wardens to join her side, saying that “Mokmurian would love to meet you.”

Lea brags about killing her sister Xanesha, and insists that Lucrecia will meet the same fate. The red haired woman gapes in shock.

“Little Xanesha?” she says. Her face contorts into a snarl as her torso shudders and ripples. Her legs merge into a snakes tail and her eyes turn yellow like a cat’s. She draws twin daggers and launches herself towards Lea. The gigantic paladin takes a swing with her earthbreaker, hitting her square on. The blow staggers the lamia matriarch and Lea promises more to come. Looking frightened, Lucrecia attempts to cast a spell defensively, but it fizzles.

Amelia tries to sow dissention among the giants by using glibness to claim that Lucrecia betrayed them to the party. She is able to fool Barl’s bodyguards, but the stone giant wizard orders them to focus on killing the Rune Wardens.

A boulder thrown by a stone giant takes out one of Marcus’ mirror images. He flies over to the giant to engage it with his ranseur. Astrid charges the other stone giant bodyguard. Barl casts a spell, causing a ghostly hand to reach out of the stone floor and grasp at Lea, draining away some of her life energy and strengthening the giant lord.

Zavian moves up to Astrid to cast fly upon her and tell her that he is planning to teleport them both up to attack the floating Barl. Amelia, meanwhile, casts invisibility onto herself and creeps up onto the dais. In an alcove behind the throne, she spies a disheveled elf chained to the wall.

Lea hammers Lucrecia into unconsciousness and leaves the lamia matriarch bleeding on the floor. The stone giant fighting Marcus loses his balance on the ledge and falls to the ground. Astrid cuts down the other stone giant bodyguard, while Lea makes her way over to loom beside Zavian.

Over in the alcove, Amelia releases the elf’s bonds, breaking her invisibility. She greets the astonished Prince Eldrin.

Zavian uses dimension door to bring Astrid, Lea and himself up above Barl. The cleric and the paladin takes swipes at the stone giant wizard as they fall, while Astrid unleashes devastating blows with Echo. Barl is cut down and his body crashes onto his stone throne.

With his master dead, the last remaining stone giant, Sarktus, offers his surrender to Marcus. The wizard stands guard over the giant and the unconscious Lucrecia.

With the fighting over, Astrid and Prince Eldrin have an emotional reunion. The prince is also glad to see that Galodar is alive. Eldrin explains that he is the only survivor of the elven warband that was ambushed by the stone giants. He was taken back here to be held captive by Barl. Overhearing conversations, Eldrin discovered that his mother Queen Tavara and her Highborne faction have made some sort of alliance with the giants. She was responsible for the giant attack that destroyed Astrid’s village! Eldrin fears that a Highborne coup may be underway in Isandria.

Searching Barl’s body, the Rune Wardens come across a message scrawled on mammoth hide. Astrid translates it from the original Giant. The message is addressed to Barl from Mokmurian and instructs him to make ready to leave for Jorgenfist with his “ogre slaves.” Mokmurian writes that Teraktinus will lead a band of giants “and the dragon” on a raid against Sandpoint because the town “could hide what my lord seeks.” Because the giants could be pursued, Barl is instructed to help cover their retreat.

The adventurers then question their prisoners. Sarktus tells them what he can about the stone giants’ plans. He says that a might giant spellcaster named Mokmurian has discovered the lost magics of Thassilon and has gathered an army of young warriors to take back the empire that was once built by giant hands from the small folk who are squatting amid the ruins. The army has gathered at Jorgenfist, a once-taboo site with an ancient Thassilonian tower. Barl was Mokmurian’s apprentice, but Sarktus found that the stone giant wizard had no honor and has subsequently lost his faith in Mokmurian’s cause. If released, he will not rejoin Mokmurian’s army.

Sarktus also tells them that the ranger Lamatar Bayden was killed and then turned into some sort of undead creature by Barl’s magic. Lamatar is currently guarding an abandoned shrine to Lamashtu.

After disarming and tying up Lucrecia, the adventurers revive her. The lamia matriarch tries to negotiate for her release, but ultimately shares her information out of desperation. Zavian leads the interrogation. He learns that she sank the Paradise to kill the passengers marked with the Sihedron rune so that their greed would serve her master’s need. They learn that Mokmurian is another servant of Lucrecia’s own master, about whom she is compelled not to speak about directly. The adventurers guess that it’s a runelord, most likely the runelord of greed. She has no further information about the impending attack on Sandpoint. Lucrecia also reveals that a coven of hags in the clanhold is responsible for the unnatural rain.

Zavian uses divinatory magic to see whether Lucrecria will harm innocents if let go, and does not detect any danger. They allow her to flee and she dimension doors away.

Before they can warn anyone in Sandpoint about the impending attack, the Rune Wardens still have the Kreeg ogres to deal with, not to mention the hag coven and the undead ranger.

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The Waters Rising
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 7

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

After activating the floodgates on Skull’s Crossing, the adventurers discuss their next steps. They decide to return to Fort Rannick for the night.

The Black Arrows have bunked up in one of the gatehouse towers, with the fort still in too much of a mess. Lea heals the wounded Kaven, while Marcus retreats to a room to read and work. Zavian teams up with Vale, making use of the ranger’s architectural knowledge to put his stone shape spells to best use restoring the structure. They have the rangers send an animal messenger to the town to warn the citizens of the danger of flooding.

Finally, the adventurers bed down. Zavian’s sleep is troubled by dark thoughts of the day’s revelations about his history as a fallen celestial. Marcus has a dream about being back in Sandpoint, introducing his parents to his girlfriend. He grows worried upon waking as he realizes such a meeting could be taking place right then. Amelia has a restful, dreamless sleep and rises early to groom her hippogriff.

Oathday, 14 Kuthona, 4733

The party decides that before heading out to Hook Mountain, they should journey south to the Shimmerglens to search for the missing Black Arrows Commander Lamatar Bayden. They hope to recruit him, and possibly fey allies, to help them confront the ogre stronghold.

However, as they approach Turtleback Ferry, the adventurers realize that the town has in fact flooded. There are a few people stranded on rooftops, including a group of school children. Although some of the residents are being evacuated by boat, the process is hampered by the presence of river predators: crocodiles and an enormous nightbelly boa constrictor. The enormous snake is menacing the children, but a pair of figures are struggling through the waist-high water towards them: Nualia and Vivi.

The Rune Wardens rush to the rescue. Lea makes use of the boots of the mire to stride confidently across the surface of the water and bash the nearest crocodile into submission. Amelia, riding her hippogriff, carries Astrid to the schoolchildren to confront the snake.

On a different rooftop, a group of panicked civilians threatens to overload a small rowboat. Marcus flies over there and offers to carry some of them away. But before he can evacuate people, a crocodile grabs hold of the man in the rowboat.

Zavian then enters the fray, casting control water to sweep the crocodiles away from the civilians and towards Astrid and Nualia. He then parts the waters to create a path he can stride through.

From the back of her hippogriff, Amelia casts sound burst to stun one of the crocodiles. Astrid attacks the night belly boa, but ends up splashing down into the water below. While the crocodile floats stunned and Astrid splashes about in her heavy plate, Nualia finds herself snared in the giant snake’s coils. She claws at it with her demonic hand. The schoolchildren flee to the edge of the roof.

Marcus tries to evacuate civilians by carrying them in his enlarged form. He sees his cart floating by.

Astrid brings down one of the crocodiles, while Zavian and Lea stride towards the fray through the unnatural dry path through the water. The final crocodiles are slain, while Nualia fights off the snake. Zavian uses the full extent of his control water spell to create dry passages between all the houses so the village can evacuate. Lea revives the crocodile victim snatched from the rowboat.

Nualia chases down and kills the nightbelly boa. She has Vivi begin skinning the corpse, but presents the head to the Varisian girl Veska.

As the floodwaters recede, the party regroups at the town church where the residents are sheltering. Zavian reunites with Nualia and they step into a quiet corner where he shares what he has learned of his true heritage. The other aasimar is impressed, and more than a little curious, by the revelation. This does not prevent the couple from finding an even quieter space in the temple to become more intimately reacquainted, while Vivi stands as lookout.

Fireday, 15 Kuthona, 4733

The following morning, the party moves on to investigate the missing ranger commander Lamatar Bayden. They take an eerie ride across Claybottom lack on the Turtleback Ferry, which deposits them on the shores of the Shimmerglens. The superstitious ferryman warned them of strange lights in the swamp at night. The place is known to be home to fey creatures and other, stranger things. Left on their own, the adventurers wade into the muck. Marcus and Amelia, however, ride on a floating disk that trails after Lea.

Not far into the Shimmerglens, the adventurers are approached by a distracted pixie called Yap. He explains that his mistress Myriana is not well and that her sickness is tainting the land. Yap begs the party to aid her and eagerly leads them deeper into the swamp.

Nualia, Vivi, and Idun part ways with the Rune Wardens as the aasimar’s vision quest takes her west into Sanos Forest. She once again tells Zavian that she’s not finished with him.

In the heart of the Shimmerglens, the party comes across a mysterious sea-going ship, hundreds of miles from the ocean. While Lea and Amelia wait below with Yap, the rest of the adventurers climb into the hulk to investigate. Amelia takes the time to scrawl “Amelia Orisini was here” on the side of the ship, which otherwise has no legible markings.

Aboard the abandoned ship, they find the long-dead and not-quite-human captain seated at a piano, as well as astoundingly original sheet music. Nearby are some maps of utterly alien coasts. When they emerge onto the deck, they spy a weird dog that disappears into the forest. The music is passed onto Amelia, and the journey continues.

Deep into the cursed grove of Whitewillow, the party comes across a dead dryad hanging halfway out of a tree. The corpse whispers to them.

“She should not have fallen in love—her heart brought this upon us—why won’t she let us go?”

The adventurers are filled with resolve to free the grove from the curse.

They finally reach a placid pool, from which emerges the furious ghost of the nymph Myriana. She explains that ogres ambushed her and her beloved Lamatar. The ranger commander was taken back to the Kreeg stronghold in Hook Mountain. She is certain that Lamatar is dead, but her powers cannot revive him. She demands that they retrieve a piece of Lamatar and return it to her so that her magic can restore him to life. Figuring that this is the best way to put the ghost to rest, the adventurers agree, with Lea personally promising to return Lamatar to her.

The party then presses north, skirting the edge of the Shimmerglens and crossing over into the Kreegwood before reaching the foothills of Hook Mountain. In the Valley of Broken Trees, they encounter a strange hill giant named Razmus.

Sunday, 16 Kuthona, 4733

The unusually intelligent and well-spoken Razmus has claimed the valley as his own territory. He wants no trouble with the Black Arrows and does not care for the Kreeg ogres, who are pawns in Mokmurian’s army. Razmus explains that Mokmurian is a stone giant leader who is rallying an army at the forbidden fortress of Jorgenfist in the Iron Peaks. Razmus led a clan of hill giants until he was abandoned by his people, even his own children, who sought to join Mokmurian’s growing army. Razmus knows that Mokmurian will ultimately fail to overcome the small folk, and doesn’t want to be caught in the crossfire.

After getting information about the Kreeg clanhold, the Rune Wardens write a letter of endorsement of Razmus and send him back to Fort Rannick to earn the locals’ trust by helping rebuild the fort.

After the encounter with Razmus, the adventurers catch up with the elves Shalelu and Galodar who they’d sent to scout ahead. The elves corroborate Razmus’ information about the Kreeg defenses.

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Trolls and Tentacles
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 6

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

Having dispatched the ogres sabotaging the dam, the Rune Wardens venture out onto Skull’s Crossing, only for the dam to shudder beneath them. A new crack emerges in it and a gush of water pours out. An enormous, terrible creature with tentacles tries to climb through the gap. It is Black Magga, the legendary scourge of the Storval Deep!

Marcus hurls a lightning bolt at it, to no effect. Zavian figures out a plan to harm the creature and runs off at supernatural speed. Astrid runs up to attack it, but is grappled by a tentacle. Lea goes after her. Amelia starts inspiring courage.

The monster belches a poisonous cloud onto them that confuses Astrid, Marcus, and Amelia. Lea dodges a tentacles and runs up to attack the tendrils grasping Astrid. Astrid babbles incoherently, Marcus and Amelia injure themselves and each other.

Lea smashes the tentacle grasping Astrid. The creature freaks out and flees. Zavian apparates into the air above, standing atop a stone plug he crafted. It falls into place, sealing the crack in the dam.

The disturbance rouses several trolls from the central structure on the dam. One tries to leap across, but slips the landing. Another troll rips a door off its hinges and hurled it at Zavian.

The adventurers recover from the confusion. Amelia charms one of the trolls, but can only communicate through gestures. She gestures for it to leave.

The runtish troll leaps out to attack Zavian, but falls down below, then climbs back up. Zavian and his spiritual ally go after the Troll throwing the door. The charmed troll moves to attack him. Amelia isn’t able to convince him to leave.

Zavian coup de graces the held troll, but the creature’s regeneration keeps it alive. Lea makes her way over to bash it with fire. The other charmed troll leaps at Zavian but tumbles off the dam.

The adventurers search the troll room, find some hidden loot and a warning about “Big Papa Grazuul” over the stairs down. The party descends 150 feet and finds a room with an algae covered pool and multiple doors. They decide to open the side doors, starting with the one on the left.

The leftmost chamber contains a model of Skulls Crossing, and a pile of skulls. Lea and Marcus move up to investigate. This causes the pile of skulls to assemble into a scorpion and advance. Lea channels positive energy, but realizes that the scorpion is a construct.

In the central chamber, Big Papa Grazuul lunges out of the algae pond to attack Zavian. Meanwhile, the scorpion construct seizes Lea in its pincers.

Whirling her double-bladed sword Echo, Astrid moves up to the aquatic troll Grazuul and takes him apart. Literally.

In the side chamber, the scorpion pins Lea to the ground and raises its shears. Marcus stabs it but his ranseur gets stuck. Zavian uses dimension door to evacuate Lea. The Rune Wardens surround the construct and hammer it. After the scorpion is destroyed, Lea keeps trashing it.

The party continues their investigation of the dam’s interior, finally coming to a chamber with two large cells with big circles of glowing runes scribed on their floors. In one cell, a pile of crimson ash sits in the center of the circle, while in the other a dead devil lies in the circle.

Approaching, they discover the devil isn’t dead at all. It has been trapped here for 10,000 years and begs for release, promising to offer valuable secrets about the planes. It tells Zavian that the aasimar is more than he appears, and this catches the cleric’s interest. He negotiates with the devil, while Lea protests, unable to understand their conversation.

Marcus figures out that the circles were leeching power from two devils in order to operate the dam’s overflow, until one of the devils was finally drained to death. Now there is insufficient power to operate the overflow. But if another creature steps into the empty circle, it will be drained instead and the dam should operate. Lea volunteers and Marcus runs off to use the model in the scorpion chamber to operate the dam.

Still unsure whether to take the devil’s offer and release it, Zavian appeals to Abadar for guidance and gets the sense that would be a Bad Thing. The cleric angrily walks out of the room as the overflow is activated and the pit fiend is drained to death.

Zavian heads up to the top of the dam to sulk, where he is visited once more by the strange dog he keeps seeing. This time, the dog speaks to him, chastising him for being so tempted by the devil. The dog reveals itself as a hound archon and explains that he once fought alongside Zavian back when the latter went by a different name as a celestial serving in the Dawn Bringers.

The hound archon explains that Zavian’s foolish deal with a contract devil damned his lover Elsevina and saw him banished to live out a mortal life on Golarion. He barely avoided repeating that mistake today. The hound warns him that the waters that spilled from the dam have imperiled Turtleback Ferry.

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Throw Down the Gauntlet
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 5

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

After rescuing the surviving Black Arrows, the Rune Wardens have joined with them to attack Fort Rannick and reclaim it from the Kreeg Clan ogres who had conquered it. While the rangers drew away some of the ogres, the adventurers infiltrated the fort courtyard, where Marcus slew four Kreeg ogres. The last of these, Jolly, was struck down as he pried open the doors to the keep.

The head of the Kreeg Clan, Papa Jaagrath, appears on the keep wall to taunt the party and urges his “boys” to show them “Kreeg hospitality.” He then retreats back into the keep.

A big Kreeg brute named Gragavan and two smaller comes spilling out into the courtyard, with more lined up behind them. Two other ogres take up positions on the keep wall and chuck rocks at Marcus, but can’t hit him. Behind the party, a lone ogre in the south gatehouse also throws boulders with no success.

The ogres in the courtyard move to surround Zavian, who stamps his foot on the ground and casts stone shape. He uses the spell to pull the earth out of the ground in front of the keep and form it into a heap between him and Gragavan.

The ogres on the wall tumble to the ground, as do Gragavan and the ogres in the courtyard. Stone flows over the keep entrance, cutting off the ogres inside. The maneuver provide the party with some cover from the keep and cuts off one of the ogres on the ground, where Astrid quickly kills him.

Marcus hurls a fireball onto the ogres in the rumble. He then descends to the ground with his ranseur at hand. An ogre climbs to the top of the rubble, but is quickly struck down by Lea. The adventurers regroup behind the rubble heap.

Papa Jaagrath returns to the keep battlements, accompanied by an ogre with steel teeth named Hookmaw Kreeg. Jaagrath begins barking out orders in Giant. Gragavan leaps up onto the rubble pile, but slips on the gore of his brother’s remains and falls to the ground. Lea and Astrid quickly gang up on him.

An ogre spellcaster, Dorella Kreeg, appears on the keep battlements and casts a confusion spell on the party. Zavian and Amelia are afflicted, while a protective ward flares brightly on Astrid’s magic gloves to shield her from its affects.

Amelia, meanwhile, casts charm person on one of the ogres, Jedediah. She tells him that the Rune Wardens are the Kreeg clan’s guests, that the ogres are making a mess and treating them badly, and that he should do something about it.

The third ogre leaps onto the rubble, the charmed Jedediah urges him not to attack, ultimately grabbing hold of him. Lea and Astrid finish off Gragavan, while Marcus blasts down the ogre.

With all of the ogres on the ground—save Jedediah—now dead, Lea calls out Papa Jaagrath and challenges him to a duel. There is some back and forth over the terms, but the ogre chieftain ultimately agrees. Both sides stand down while the courtyard is cleared. The ogre bodies are heaped up in a pile and burned.

While this takes place, Astrid, Zavian, and Marcus question Jedediah. They learn that a stone giant named Barl Breakbones has taken over the Kreeg clanhold on Hook Mountain. He arrived bearing a medallion with the Sihedron rune, much like the woman Lucrecia who arrived at Fort Rannick some days ago. Jedediah confirms that, as suspected, she is a lamia matriarch.

Astrid questions him about stone giants and the fate of her brother, discovering that Prince Eldrin was brought before Barl as a captive. Jedediah doesn’t know what’s been done with the prince, but speculates that he’ll be eaten.

Meanwhile, Amelia chews out Lea for this reckless gamble, as almost a dozen ogres gather on the keep walls to watch. The bard asks if Lea remembers anything Chammady taught her, while Lea assures her there is nothing to worry about.

Once the battlefield in prepared, the two combatants step up to it. The ogres on the wall chant “Kreeg! Kreeg!” as Jaagrath boasts about his inevitable victory. he stands more than twice Lea’s height, 14 feet in all, and seems to be made out of muscle. Countless scars crisscross his body, and a string of polished human skulls hangs from his belt. In his hand is an enormous ogre hook that shimmers with sinister magic.

The duel begins and Lea surges forward to land the first blow. Jaagrath hits her harder, gouging her viciously with his hook. He offers to handicap the fight, by stepping back to let her swing again.

She lands a devastating blow with her earthbreaker, then charges. Jaagrath is unable to strike her as she brings him to his knees. The blow should have killed an ordinary creature, but Jaagrath surges on, lashing out with his ogre hook and nicking Lea’s face as she ducks her head back. She brings the earthbreaker down on his head and it is over.

The remaining Kreeg ogres look uncertain what to do. Lea plants her foot on Jaagrath’s body and orders them to carry a warning back to Barl and then flee from Varisia or suffer her wrath. The ogres submit and Astrid further demands that they leave behind their weapons. She warns that she will be coming for her brother. The sullen ogres mutter that the Kreeg Clan will rise again and march off, with Jedediah still trying to make apologies to the party.

Concerned that Lucrecia and who knows what else is still lurking in the keep, the Rune Wardens decide to rest in the south gatehouse. They greet the Black Arrows as the rangers return, carrying a wounded Kaven Windstrike.

Zavian tends to the injured ranger, who was hurt while fending off an ogre brute from attacking Jakardros. Meanwhile, Shalelu questions Lea about the terrible gouges in her armor. The paladin asks her not to mention this to Ameiko. After a long moment, Shalelu agrees. For now.

Jakardros, meanwhile, inspects Jaagrath’s body, noting that the ogre owed him an eye.

Astrid confides in Galodar about Prince Eldrin’s capture. The elf ranger is eager to go rescue him, but first they have to clear the castle.

The adventurers, the Black Arrows, and the elves enter the fortress, where they immediately come across the ogres’ grisly handiwork. Graffiti is scribbled on the walls in blood, while the mutilated bodies of Black Arrows lie everywhere. The stench is awful.

The Rune Wardens head upstairs while the others explore the dungeon. In the commander’s quarters, they discover love sonnets written by the Black Arrows’ leader Lamatar Bayden to someone named “Myriana” along with a lock of nymph hair and a pair of boots of the mire.

The poems suggest that Myriana dwells in Whitewillow, which Jakardros identifies as a location in the Shimmerglens that is close to a portal to the First World. The sonnets explain what Commander Bayden was up to on his monthly “communes” in the swamp. He was absent from the fort on one such commune when the ogres attacked, and his body is not among those in the fort. Jakardros and Vale are suddenly excited at the thought that he might still be alive in the Shimmerglens.

The rangers report that the dungeon has been converted to a sensuously decorated lounge with hanging silks and soft cushions, most likely where Lucrecia was staying. The lamia matriarch herself appears to have fled the fort, unfortunately.

The Rune Wardens plan their next move. Fort Rannick will be left in Jakardros’ hands, with Vale sent back to Turtleback Ferry to recruit some townsfolk to help stand guard and begin repairs. They have Shalelu and Galodar track the ogres back to the Kreeg Clanhold and get reconnaissance on Hook Mountain.

In the mean time, the adventurers are concerned about the purpose of the unnatural terrain. They ask the Black Arrows what purpose the rains might serve. Vale, the order’s engineer, thinks that they might be trying to burst the ancient dam known as Skull’s Crossing. This would flood the region, killing everyone in Turtleback Ferry and points beyond.

Investigating the dam becomes priority one, and the adventurers immediately set out north, following the western shore of the Skull River back towards the dam. Skull’s Crossing itself stretches across this massive gorge. An ancient stone staircase is gouged out of the canyon wall, leading up towards the top of the dam.

Amelia does a quick pass over the area on her hippogriff, spying a group of six tired ogre on the dam, hacking away at it with sapping tools. Elsewhere, a huge chunk has been torn out of the top of the dam and water is spilling out.

Near the top of the goals, the stone stairs end in a cave. Astrid stealthily investigates and comes across a guilt-wracked ettin. The huge two-headed creature is in deep conversation with itself about how the ogres bribed it into letting them pass.

After Astrid tells the others what she found, Marcus casts spider climb on her. Walking on the cave ceiling, she stealths back inside while the rest of the party follows. Attempts to talk their way past the ettin fail, and the creature prepares to charge. But Astrid drops down from the ceiling and takes him apart.

The ettin’s cave opens out onto the rain-slicked top of the dam. Zavian and Astrid use magic to walk along the side of the dam until they draw close to the six ogres. Zavian then bends the stone with stone shape to tilt the top of the dam and sends the ogres tumbling off. They plummet hundreds of feet to the churning waters below.

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A Series of Missteps Leads to a Fall
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Interlude

13 Kuthona, 4733 – Fort Rannick

lea-1.jpg

Schlinnnng……crunch. The sound of a wickedly sharp ogre hook punching through mithral plate. An equally wicked grin spread across the ogre’s grotesque lips. Lea’s eyes widened as she looked down at the end of the hook protruding from what was her sternum, covered in grime and blood. She tried to scream but the only thing coming up were gurgled gasps as blood filled her lungs.

“You got yourself a strong arm there,” the ogre mused aloud. “I’mma enjoy eating that last part, last.”

As quickly as it had entered, so was the hook removed, causing the young paladin’s body to shutter violently. Lea stumbled backward, bright crimson splattering on the unsteady rubble beneath her feet. No! This can’t be happening! Her violet eyes flared up brightly, only to sputter and dim just as quickly. NO! Iomedae please!! Her knees buckled, her limbs growing heavy, as she tumbled down the debris heap from where she stood, finally stopping as her body slammed hard against a chunk of fallen masonry. Lea let out a painful gasp. Her vision darkened, as she struggled to move. Iomedae please! I can’t die here! I… Her hand outstretched, reaching for the Earthbreaker just above her feet.

I’m sorry…

Ameiko.

There were shouts and cries, but Lea could not hear them. Everything was dark, cold. The pain was agonizing, seemingly without end. Then suddenly, a familiar voice rang out in her mind.

“Don’t you know? Pride comes before the fall,” Elhayzar said.

Lea’s eyes opened to see the golden spirit standing over her where her Earthbreaker was. Her face was stern, her brow furrowed. Lea tried to speak but no sound came out, her throat was coated with blood, causing her to cough and wheeze.

“And a prideful and careless child you’ve proven to be, Ecclesia Ionomia. Greedily you enjoyed slaughtering the Grauls, proud of the plans you so haphazardly constructed. Again you strove headfirst into a contest with ogres, trying to outshine your predecessors, envying their glory. Iomedae has no use for failed martyrs. Your light is fading quickly, and if it were up to me it would be extinguished here and now. What a royal meal for ogres you would be!”

Elhayzar’s arms and wings swing in a wide gesture, as she then shakes her head and frowns.

“The Inheritor and The Gold-Fisted feel differently, and so here I am once again. The Gods have taken an interest in you blessed child, even that drunkard Cayden Cailean is watching in earnest. As are more malevolent forces seeking to see you fail.”

Elhayzar’s hand stretches out toward Lea, and a golden light shines upon her wounds. Lea’s body convulses in pain as bones and sinew are being magically knit back together, and torn muscles and organs stitch close. Lea gasps and cries out.

“See that you remember this feeling, this despair, this anguish,” Elhayzar chided. “These were your failures. See to it that you do not fail her again. Ogres are nothing to trifle with, so be careful.”

Another golden light flashes out, this time from a different figure out in the distance. The world around her starts to take shape again as Lea’s breathing starts to return to normal.

“That Abadaran Aasimar of yours knows your prayers have been answered and he’s attempting to bring you back into the fight. Awaken, Ecclesia Ionomia, and let us join the others in battle.”

With that Lea’s eyes opened once more. She took a loud gasp and coughed as the cold mountain air filled her lungs.

“She’s alive! Lea quickly we need you!” Zavian shouted, charging off in the distance.

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Marcus the Ogre Slayer
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 4

Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733

The Rune Wardens have so far curbstomped the Graul family of ogrekin cannibals—blowing up their barn to kill their giant spider, avoiding their traps, and ambushing their matriarch Mammy Graul. Flush with success, they continue their home invasion.

Marcus discovers the Grauls’ kitchen and immediately wishes he hadn’t. While he recovers from the overwhelming nausea, Lea bashes down the door to the family room but doesn’t see anything of note aside from a creepy couch.

With nowhere else to go but down, the adventurers cover their noses and race through the gore-slicked kitchen and down the stairs to the Graul basement.

The stairs open out onto a cramped workroom with several sets of half-finished pieces of furniture cushioned in human leather. Astrid takes point and is ambushed by two rodents of unusual size, as well as a furious ogrekin berserker.

Although the enraged Graul deals out furious wounds to Zavian, the cleric manages to stove his head in with a mace. Astrid splats the donkey rats and the party moves on.

Zavian uses shape stone to bring down the wall between the workshop and the chamber beyond. This inadvertently reveals the Grauls’ nastiest secret: an enormous tendricolus plant monster that was once one of their own.

Lea rushes in to confront it, but is quickly caught in its jaws and paralyzed. Marcus keeps a flaming sphere on it, while the others bring the creature down. Astrid and Amelia investigate the Graul treasure. Meanwhile, Zavian and Marcus check up on Lea. While she is incapacitated, Marcus uses this opportunity to inspect her strange purple eyes.

The adventurers salvage what they can from the Graul household, including the gear of their Black Arrows allies. Amelia has a close call with a Graul trap on the creepy couch in the family room. Once she’s been tried for the poison, the adventurers set fire to the place and return to their camp in the Kreegwood while the farmhouse burns to the ground.

They reunite with the elves and the Black Arrows to plot their attack on Fort Rannick. Jakardros and Vale brief them on the layout of the fort and its vulnerabilities. The Rune Wardens decide that they will approach by air while the others launch a diversionary attack to draw away some of the ogres.

Toilday, 12 Kuthona, 4733

First however, they take a day to make preparations. Amelia ferries supplies between the camp and Turtleback Ferry on her hippogriff. Zavian uses his vivicarum spell to raise three vivicars of the dead Black Arrows from the Graul farm. One of the vivicars takes the form of Vale’s dead brother Victor. Vale is so troubled by this that he asks Zavian to dispel the construct and summon another one.

Shalelu and Lea gather bitterbark branches for the diversion. Lea asks the elf ranger about her reunion with Jakardros and learns that her suspicions were right. Jakardros left after the death of Shalelu’s mother not out of callousness but grief. The two have reconciled.

Shalelu and Galodar hear someone approach and stealth off to investigate. They return with a captive, a trapper named Rotibar who claims he was returning to Turtleback Ferry after checking his traps in the Wyvern Mountains. The party is suspicious, but Lea senses no evil on the man, who protests loudly about being detained.

Rotibar is troubled by the unnatural rains, and mentions that it may have riled up Black Magga in the Storval Deep. A more immediate concern was Rotibar’s sighting of a hill giant in the Valley of Broken Trees just north of Fort Rannick. The party decides to investigate once they retake Fort Rannick. They let the trapper go on his way.

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

In the pre-dawn hours, the adventurers set out for Fort Rannick, arriving in the morning, and begin to set their plan in motion. The fortress is built against a sheer cliff face, with a creek acting as both a water source and natural moat. But there are vulnerabilities in its defenses that they intend to exploit.

The two elves stealthily approach the secret cave entrance to the fort and ignite the bitterbark they had collected. The strong odor smokes out the shocker lizards who dwell in the caves, driving them up into the fortress.

The Black Rangers, bolstered by the trio of vivicars, launch a diversionary attack on the south gate of the fort. They are successful in drawing out the ogres. Perhaps too successful, as a dozen of the giant monsters thunder out of the fort after them.

The Rune Wardens, meanwhile, fly up to the abandoned giant eagle aerie that Vale had told them about. They descend through another secret passage down to the fort’s courtyard, where rubble blocks their way. The courtyard is full of enraged shocker lizards, which are being chased by several ogres.

Noting the crumbling guard post nearby, which they were told was ready to fall any moment, Zavian uses a shape stone spell to clear the way and undermine the base of the tower. It topples over onto a big brutish ogre and the rest of the party surges out into the yard.

Astrid hits the ogre guard in the north gatehouse with an arrow, and Marcus flies in to finish him off with two scorching rays. (One) Zavian and Astrid confront the smaller ogre, unwittingly attracting the attention of the shocker lizards as well.

The big brutish ogre Karly-Lop rises out of the rubble, only a little worse for wear after having a building dropped on him. Lea deftly leaps up onto the debris pile to confront him face to face.

Meanwhile, another ogre brute, Jolly, runs along the wall to assist his fellows. He and Karly-Lop have a cordial exchange about dealing with the carpetbagging scalawags who’ve stirred up this heap of trouble. But when Jolly tries to pull a chunk of masonry out of the wall to throw, he brings the whole gatehouse down on top of him.

Marcus slashes down the smallest ogre with his ranseur and unleashes the stored shocking grasp spell to electrocute Ol’ Randy. (Two)

Lea goes to toe to toe with the ogre brute Karly-Lop, confident that her valor and the Inheritor’s blessing will see her through. The two duel, but the ogre gets the upper hand. Karly-Lop’s wicked hook pierces through Lea’s mithral plate. She slumps to the ground on the brink of death.

Karly-Lop’s triumph is short-lived, however, as Marcus unleashes a barrage of magic missile that pummel the life from the ogre’s warped body. (Three) Zavian quickly revives Lea with the healing power of the Lawgiver.

Jolly, meanwhile, emerges from the ruins of the gatehouse. He surveys the scene. Amelia takes that opportunity to throw glitterdust in his eyes, blinding him. He shrieks that he hates fairy dust.

Crying that this is like the Shimmerglens all over again, the ogre brute runs blindly across the courtyard before slamming into the cliff face. He cleans the glitter from his eyes and makes a break for the main keep. Zavian and Marcus chases after him. Jolly forces open the main doors just in time for Marcus to hammer him with a volley of magic missiles (Four)

With the eldritch knight 4-0 against the ogres, the rest of the party has a ways to go to catch up and the gates of the keep are wedged open to them.

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The Hills Have Ows
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 3

Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733

The Rune Wardens have regrouped after their first raid on the Graul farmhouse, where they freed three Black Arrow rangers from the ogrekin cannibals. Now the party prepares to launch a full scale assault on the main farmhouse, which they’ve been warned is likely to be trapped.

Amelia proposes attacking the Graul farmhouse from above. Her hippogriff carries her, Lea, and Zavian, while an enlarged Marcus flies over to the roof with Astrid and a small boulder.

The boulder smashes through the ragged shingles covering the upper floor of the farmhouse, but Zavian uses a silence spell to keep it from making any noise. Rain pours through the hole in the ceiling into what appears to be a group bedroom.

After descending into the room, Lea and Amelia invesitgate a big wooden chest. The latch isn’t trapped, but the bag of coins inside the chest sits upon a pressure plate.

While Zavian and Astrid investigate the workroom beyond, Marcus attempts to hook the trapped bag of coins with his giant ranseur. This causes Amelia and Lea to retreat away from it. Marcus’ attempts trigger a vicious razor blade that snaps out, cutting the bag in half as the eldritch knight lifts it.

After infiltrating the upper level, the Rune Wardens stealthily descend to the ground floor. They arrive in a hall with multiple doors. Astrid investigates the most foul smelling one and quietly slips inside

Inside, there are several open coffins leaning against the wall which contain dead ogrekin with lips sewn shut. Buckets of filth are lined against the wall. A grotesquely obese ogrekin woman who could be none other than Mammy Graul wheezes in a huge, ruined bed.

With Astrid clinging to the shadows, Mammy asks one of her “boys” to close the drafty door. One of the dead ogrekin lurches forward towards the door.

Quiet as a shadow, Astrid stalks up to the bloated ogrekin matriarch and tears into her with the double-bladed sword Echo. Mammy howls in pain and starts cussing out her incompetent “mother-fucking” boys for failing to protect her. Lea and Zavian charge in to the fray before Mammy or her zombies can react. Astrid finishes her off and the undead are swiftly dealt with.

With Mammy dispatched, Lea investigates the gruesome scene in the dining room. As the paladin reaches to open a door to an adjacent room, Amelia yanks her backwards at the last moment, sparing her from a vicious scythe trap.

Once the trap is spent, Lea bursts into what looks like a gross mockery of a “playroom” where two ogrekin are caught by surprise. The paladin strikes terror into them, causing them to race for the window. A grease spell from Amelia sends them both slipping to the ground. Lea and Amelia finish off the ogrekin, while Zavian falls prey to the grease.

Having totally massacred every incestuous ogrekin cannibal they’ve encountered thus far while dodging the Graul’s traps, the adventurers confidently plan their next move.

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Zavian Desante's Day Off
The Hook Mountain Massacre Interlude

Starday, 9 Kuthona, 4733

While the good people of Turtleback Ferry have reacted to the Runes Wardens’ arrival with strange looks at the curious newcomers, they save the most gawking for the two aasimar (and their vivicar companion).

As Zavian and Nualia go about their business accompanied by Vivi, they come across a group of children from the village school. They all stare until Nualia sends them running with a glower—all but a lone Varisian girl, Veska. She asks if Zavian and Nualia are Varisians, too.

The girl is disappointed when Zavian explains that they are merely the blood of Celestials. She explains that her family are the only Varisians in town and she often gets picked on for being different. Nualia tells her to beat up anyone who makes fun of her and win respect through violence. She ruffles the kid’s hair with her clawed hand.

Zavian also asks about the town’s Winter Week festivities and learns that there is a big feast scheduled for Wealday. The aasimar decides he wants to get the party started early. He takes Nualia (and Vivi) to the local tavern, Bottoms Up, promising to show her what he was like in his wild days. He also gives Veska a gold coin for her service and invites her parents to the party.

Zavian drops a sizable chunk of change at the tavern to pay for a big party celebrating the start of Winter Week and spreading the goodwill of Abadar. Nualia loosens up over the course of the evening, participating in a drinking contest (bolstered by lesser restoration), dancing with Zavian, and sharing stories of how Sandpoint celebrated Winter Week. Vivi, meanwhile, attempts to mimic the dancers.

Sunday, 10 Kuthona, 4733

Zavian and Nualia eventually retire to a room upstairs to continue their party in private. The following morning, they are greeted with cheers by the remaining revelers. After breakfast, they head out on a romantic walk. Well, as romantic as it can be in the pouring rain.

When they pause beneath a tree, Zavian takes the opportunity to confront Nualia over the fact that she seems to have lost her clerical powers. She admits that Lamashtu has forsaken her, the latest sign of her failure at life.

Zavian insists that as an Aasimar, she has an important destiny to fulfill and has merely lost her way. At his insistence, she joins him in a ritual to summon a planar entity to help her find the true path forward.

The ritual calls down a blue light from the heavens that manifests as a creature less than two feet tall, looking like a tiny, naked elf with butterfly wings and a lute made of living wood. She introduces herself as Idun, a lyrakien azata of Desna. She heard their call and is here to help both Nualia and Vivi find themselves. The journey will take them into the Sanos Forest.

Nualia grabs Zavian by the collar with her demon hand to give him a farewell kiss. She orders him to keep out of harm’s way, as she is not done with him yet. Vivi waves.

As the trio sets out, Idun hopes that Zavian’s guide also helps him discover his true self. Zavian realizes that he is being watched by the strange dog again.

The hound once again eludes him and Zavian decides his time would be better spent trying to sell the enormous scale that he and Marcus retrieved from the shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Syrantula.

As luck would have it, a Garundi man from Kaer Maga on his way to trade for gnomish items in the village of Pendaka catches eye of the scale. He seems kind of desperate to purchase the scale. Zavian realizes the guy knows exactly what the scale is from and is purchasing it out of fear to appease some threat.

The merchant loudly resists Zavian’s inquiries as he hastily swaddles the scale up in a cloak and throws it over his shoulder. He warns Zavian that there are “strange things in the forests.”

“You have no idea what’s out there,” the merchant says. “What they want and what they’re willing to do. Folks around here are scared of ogres, but there are far more terrible things out there, and believe you me: you don’t want to meet them—or owe them anything.”

“Apparently not,” Zavian says as the merchant hustles off.

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NOPE NOPE NOPE
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 2

Starday, 9 Kuthona, 4733

After a long journey from Magnimar, the Rune Wardens arrived at the rain-drenched village of Turtleback Ferry the previous day. While they wait for their companion Lea to rendezvous with them, the adventurers settle in at the Turtle’s Parlor inn.

The arrival of so many exotic and well-armed strangers draws gawks from the locals. Marcus retreats to his room to focus on his crafting and research. Zavian awkwardly tries to offer Abadarian services to the locals. Amelia does a little busking, hoping to learn more from the locals, but gets too caught up in her performance. Astrid shyly lingers in the inn’s common room, avoiding the locals.

Word of their arrival travels fast, however, and the adventurers are soon summoned to speak with the town mayor, Maelin Shreed. A priest of Erastil, he offers his spellcasting services to them free of charge for the duration of their stay.

They learn from Maelin that the rangers from Fort Rannick have not visited the town for several weeks. A few days ago, a group of foresters and woodsmen from the village trekked out to the fort to try to make contact. They haven’t been heard from either. So he’s very happy to see a band of adventurers, no matter how strange, here to help.

They ask the mayor about any other strange occurrences in the vicinity of the town. He tells them about the sinking of the Paradise, a controversial pleasure barge that was set up several years ago by a beautiful red-headed woman named Lucrecia. The barge sank in the middle of the night about a month ago, taking all hands and passengers with it to the bottom of Claybottom Lake. The Rune Wardens consider investigating the boat once their other business is done.

The adventurers tell the mayor that they will be investigating Fort Rannick once their final companion arrives.

Sunday, 10 Kuthona, 4733

The following morning, there is a commotion in the center of town as a griffin touches down. The elegant beast has the head of an owl and manages to look both majestic and judgmental despite the rain. On its back are two armored women, one in silver and gold, the other in black and gold.

A weary and chastened Lea dismounts, thanking Ser Chammady of Korvosa for this favor. The senior paladin tells her to remember her lessons, and then tells the other adventurers that she will hold them responsible should anything happen to Lea. She also passes on a greeting to Amelia from her parents. With that, Chammady takes off for Korvosa on the back of her griffin.

Lea is exhausted from nights of standing watch and has to be gently escorted to the Turtle’s Parlor. Along the way, she passes Marcus a book and a letter from Shayliss, as well as a letter from his mother Clairian.

At Zavian’s request, Shalelu takes a walk around the village, inspecting the soil and the sky. She reports that there is a fell voice on the wind, and suspects that the rains are the result of magic, though she’s not sure to what end.

Once Lea has recovered somewhat from her journey, she asks Shalelu about the man she is here to find, Jakardros Sovark. The elf says that she’s heard from the locals that he is a workaholic who has risen to second in command at the fort, and lost an eye some years ago. Lea urges Shalelu to keep an open mind about him, as his disappearance after her mother’s death might have been driven by grief rather than malice. Either way, Shalelu is determined to find out the truth.

The elf ranger is somewhat flummoxed, however, by Galodar’s continuing courtesies towards her and does not know how to react.

That evening, Zavian and Nualia take advantage of a break in the clouds to go stargazing. Zavian urges Nualia to take this opportunity to find her destiny and sends her off on a vision quest, accompanied by Vivi and a summoned lyrakien azata.

Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733

With Lea refreshed after a night’s rest, the Rune Wardens set out for Fort Rannick, following an old road that leads all the way north to the ancient dam of Skull’s Crossing. While most of them travel by foot, Amelia takes to the skies on her hippogriff. Marcus rides with her, taking the opportunity to read up in the book Shayliss gave him. It’s a treatise called Path of the Eldritch Knight, a meandering tome written by a gnome which nonetheless has some useful nuggets of information buried in it.

About three miles north of town, the road crosses over an old bridge to the western bank of the Skull River. As they make the crossing, the adventurers become aware of the sound of a big cat yowling in pain emanating from the nearby Kreegwood. At Lea’s insistence, they investigate.

They discover a firepelt cougar with its paw caught in some kind of bear trap. In the distance, they can hear hunting dogs bearing down on it. Lea approaches the creature and discerns that it is well trained, and likely a companion for a ranger or druid. While Astrid and Shalelu take up stealthy positions among the trees, Lea, Zavian and Galodar pry the cat free of the trap.

The party is soon confronted by the dog pack and their hunt master, a grotesque ogrekin named Rukus Graul. He orders them not to interfere in his hunt for the “kitty cat,” and sics his dogs on them when they refuse. The Rune Wardens make short work of the pack, and Rukus as well when he tries to flee.

The firepelt cougar leads the party deeper into the Kreegwood, following a rough trail back towards the Graul farm. Amelia scouts ahead on her hippogriff and spies a sickly field of corn adjacent to a dilapidated barn and sagging farmhouse. She notices another ogrekin stealthily patrolling the perimeter of the farm clearing.

The party decides to try to lure the guard away from the farm and into an ambush, using Amelia’s ghost sound to mimic an ogrekin voice calling out for “Mammy!”

The guard, Crowfood, hears the party moving into position, but his attempt to ambush the ambushers fails. Astrid cuts him down as the grotesque cornhusk fetishes the Grauls have hung from the trees around their farm look on.

The firepelt leads the party around the fringes of the farm clearing to the old barn. The adventurers debate how best to enter, but ultimately Lea and Astrid bash a human-sized hole in the back wall.

The cavernous interior beyond is thick with spiderwebs strong enough to snare a deer. A catwalk runs around the edge of the space, and the room ends with a set of double doors on the far side of the chamber. Beyond the doors, they can hear the muffled sound of voices.

No one is eager to step into the webbing, so Lea slaps together a Molotov cocktail and chucks it inside. The spiderwebs go up in a flash, startling the enormous ogre spider that lurks within. The arachnid slams into the double doors, battering them down.

An ogre kin in the next room hollers “Look out! Biggin’s got loose!”

Marcus takes this as a cue to step forward and hurl a fireball into the next chamber. Only after the spell is loosed does he wonder if there are any surviving rangers in the room. The fireball explodes into a wrathful globe of flame that sweeps across the room.

There is a sharp hissing noise, and then an explosion that rocks the barn as the still the ogrekin were working on explodes. The Grauls are killed, and the ogre spider is set on fire. Lea rushes forward and bashes its thorax in with her earthbreaker.

While the the others attempt to scavenge what they can from the wreckage, Zavian races up the snmoking stairs onto the catwalk. There is a large wooden cage jutting out from the walkway, within which are three badly injured men in their underclothes. While Zavian heals them up, Amelia frees them from their manacles. the two of them notice that one of the men has a Sihedron rune tattooed on the inside of his left arm.

The men are rangers of the Black Arrows: Vale Temros, Kaven Windstrike, and Jakardros Sovark. The older ranger gruffly explains that ogres have captured Fort Rannick. His unit was out on patrol and upon their return attempted to retake the fort, but were repulsed. While they regrouped, they were set upon by the cannibalistic Grauls, who have been devouring them one by one.

After wrapping the men in blankets, the party takes them outside. Jakardros’ entire demeanor changes when he sees Shalelu. Zavian, meanwhile, sternly questions Kaven about his Sihedron and breaks out a zone of truth to force him to answer.

Kaven admits that he was a regular at the Paradise, and got the tattoo to get VIP access. He ended up in the arms of the proprietress, Lucrecia, and spilled information about the fort’s defenses. He got a tip that he should stay away from the fort on a specific date, which was why he volunteered for Jakardros’ long distance patrol.

The party suspects that Lucrecia is connected to the Sihedron murders, and is perhaps Xanesha’s sister. The Rune Wardens are divided as to what to do about Kaven. Zavian thinks he should be given a chance to win back his honor, and Marcus thinks he could be useful in the fight, while Lea thinks he should face justice for his crimes.

They leave the decision to Jakardros, who takes a sword from Lea, but then looks at Shalelu and decides to grant Kaven a chance to redeem himself.

The adventurers decide to leave the rangers with Shalelu, Galodar, and Jakardros’ firepelt cougar Kibb, while the Rune Wardens assault the Graul farm and recover the rangers’ weapons. Jakardros warns them that the place is likely riddled with traps.

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Random Encounters
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 1

Toilday, 28 Neth, 4733

After traveling a few hours away from the ruined elf camp in the Mushfens, the Rune Wardens settle down for the night. Zavian uses shape stone to create a thin layer of stone to keep them out of the mud. Galodar asks after their adventures and is impressed with their accomplishments, but over the course of the evening it becomes clear that he and Shalelu do not get along.

While most of the party beds down for the night in their tents, Zavian keeps watch, his ring of sustenance warding off fatigue. The two elves settle in to trance on opposite sides of the camp, while Vivi strolls around, frequently casting her gaze up at the stars that twinkle in between the banks of clouds.

Then, quite suddenly, a thick mass of fog engulfs the camp, making it difficult to see beyond fa few feet. Zavian realizes that this is no natural effect just as he hears a sickening wet crunch from the direction where Galodar was trancing. Zavian dispells the fog and shouts in alarm, as the clouds part to reveal an aberrant marsh giant. The creature’s greatclub is smeared with blood, as Galodar’s crumbled body bleeds out on the ground. Vivi rushes to defend the elf, while Zavian circles around behind the main tent.

The rest of the camp lurches awake. Nualia stumbles out of the large tent in her underwear, bastard sword in hand, to find herself face to face with the giant. Lea comes running out of her tent, earthbreaker ready. The grotesque creature stumbles away from them, trampling over Astrid’s tent as she barely manages to avoid the enormous footsteps. Amelia starts singing an inspiring tune as she wriggles out of her tent. Marcus emerges and hurls a fireball at the giant.

This unfortunately attracts the attention of another marsh giant perched on a fallen tree a hundred some feet away. This giant hurls a boulder at Marcus and continues to pelt the camp with stones. Shalelu looses arrows back at him, but to little effect. Marcus’ spells have a sharper bite, but also make him more of a target. Amelia takes to the air in her hippogriff and pelts the distant giant with glitterdust.

Zavian intones a prayer for the party, while Astrid leaps up, trying to land on the aberrant giant’s back, but he ducks and she instead lands behind him. Lea charges the monstrosity and it strikes her with it’s greatclub. The savage blow nearly knocks her to the ground and cracks the club.

The giant casts the weapon aside and bellows “Mokmurian!”

Lea and Astrid catch the creature in a flanking position and begin to hack into it. Nualia charges the tentacled monster and ducks under its swing to catch it in the groin with her bastard sword. The loss of its little tentacle brings the already overbalanced giant to its knees, where Astrid delivers the killing blow.

The remaining marsh giant tries to make a break for it, but Amelia uses her hippogriff to ferry the eager warriors from the campsite to its position. Zavian and Lea heal Galodar and the others, but Astrid’s tent is a loss.

Astrid keeps watch for the remainder of the night while Zavian rests and talks with the two elves. She asks Galodar about her brother, her father and life in Isandria. Galodar explains that unlike Shalelu’s homeland in the Mierani Forest to the north, the main city of Isandria was kept hidden from interlopers during the elves’ millennia of seclusion at Sovyrian. This allowed them to move back in with relative ease.

(Shalelu notes that the Isandrians have not taken advantage of their good fortune to help their cousins in the Mierani Forest.)

But dangers still lurk in the wider forest, and it is the job of the Ranger Guard to secure it. The Guard lacks the resources to keep all intruders out, so over the years Isandria’s leafy expanse has played home to more and more unauthorized human settlers: bandits, refugees, and foresters. It has become a significant political issue for the royal court, which is divided between two factions.

The Highborne, favored by Queen Tavara, wish to expel the humans before they further pollute elven lands and culture. The Stalwarts support King Thalion’s position of toleration, which seeks to incorporate the humans into the realm and teach them proper elvish ways.

(Shalelu interjects to note that both sides are arrogant and xenophobic, even to other elves.)

The two continue to verbally snipe at each other for the remainder of the night while Astrid tries to keep the peace.

Wealday, 29 Neth, 4733

The party returns to Magnimar and immediately begins preparations to depart for Turtleback Ferry. Lea takes her leave of the group to escort Ameiko back to Sandpoint and hopefully meet up with Ser Chammady of Korvosa at Foxglove Manor along the way.

Astrid reunites with the Kellid smith Neshka to tell her of her first victory over the giants, the first of many Neshka assures her. Astrid’s shipment of mithral has arrived, allowing for the crafting of a suit of plate mail.

Zavian purchases supplies for the journey and also goes clothes shopping with Nualia, who is in a chipper mood after emasculating that giant.

Marcus collects the completed rod from the Seer Stone Academy and finishes some crafting projects over the next few days. He also takes some time to write a short letter to Shayliss, letting her know where he’s gone, and another one to his parents letting them know he may be out of town for Winter Week.

Amelia practices barrel rolls with her hippogriff. She’ll get the hang of it someday.

Fireday, 1 Kuthona, 4733

Having charted a boat to take them up the Yondabakari River towards Turtleback Ferry, the Rune Wardens board the Maiden’s Folly. The boat is captained by Captain Merrey Erwer, a Varisian woman whose swash is at least half-buckled.

She is happy to have adventurers aboard, as river travel has grown more dangerous in recent months. In addition to monsters from the Mushfens, river pirates have grown more active, and ships have simply gone missing out on Lake Syrantula. On their first day out, the boat is assailed by a vicious warm of mosquitos that Marcus brings down with a well-placed burning hands spell.

Disgusted by the sight (and smell) of the Mushfens, Zavian retires to the private cabin he secured for himself and Nualia. The two aasimar spend most of the journey in there getting intimately acquainted with one another, at times rather noisily.

Galodar and Shalelu, meanwhile, stay on deck as much as possible, but stick to opposite sides of the ship, barely speaking. Marcus buries himself in his studies and craft work, while Amelia soars overhead on her horse-bird-lion thing. Vivi, when left to her own devices, attentively watches the landscape pass by.

Moonday, 4 Kuthona, 4733

The night before, the Maiden’s Folly had pulled into Whistledown, a small town that serves as the gateway to Lake Syrantula. The town has as many gnomes as humans, and is renowned for its musical instruments, including windchimes that create a haunting melody at night when the wind comes of the lake. When dawn broke on Moonday, Amelia decided to stay in town a little longer and catch up via hippogriff.

As the Maiden’s Folly makes its way out onto the deeper waters of the lake, something very large bumps into it, sending the boat rocking. The jostling grows more severe, disturbing Zavian and Nualia’s recreation in their cabin, while out on deck Captain Merrey realizes that the boat is being attacked by four giant gar.

As the crew scrambles to their positions, Astrid leans over the side to stab at one and is nearly devoured. Galodar’s string of bad luck continues, as a gar snatches him from the boat and quickly swallows him. Marcus manages to scald three of the enormous fish with a well-placed fireball.

Inside his cabin, Zavian methodically dresses and equips himself, determined not to rush out disheveled.

Astrid skewers the brain of the giant gar that tried to eat her. The fish start to dive, but Marcus hits them with another fireball, killing the one carrying Galodar in its belly. Without a word, Shalelu dives into the water and swims towards the dead creature.

Zavian emerges and grants water breathing to the rest of the party. Astrid and Nualia swim out to the dead gar, where Shalelu manages to cut Galodar free. They bring the wounded elf back up onto the ship. He looks at Shalelu with newfound admiration and perhaps something more, but she doesn’t seem to notice.

Zavian and Marcus, meanwhile, deduce that if this is a hunting ground, there might be more wrecks below the surface they could salvage. After all, they’d already cast water breathing. They concoct a scheme to lower themselves on long ropes to scour the murky depths with a daylight spell. Only midway through do they realize that this plan effectively turns them into giant fishing lures.

Thankfully, there are no predators nearby and they are able to salvage three heavy barrels from a wrecked ship. The barrels’ unspoiled content turns out to be salt. they offer a cut of the salvage to Captain Merrey and her crew. The Captain is very grateful to them for saving her ship and says she’s never seen that many giant gar acting in concert.

Wealday, 6 Kuthona, 4733

After the fishing incident, the Maiden’s Folly turns north towards Ilsurian. Shalelu warns them not to display Magnimarian or Korvosan symbols. Ilsurian stands apart from both city-states, and its insular inhabitants are very suspicious of outsiders.

Marcus recalls that a renowned smith, Vea Semere, lives in Ilsurian and vows to visit her shop. Vea turns out to be a young half-elf woman who specializes in weapon smithing, to meet the constant demand for weapons from the Ilsurians, who prize them as symbols of independence. The two half-elves chat excitedly about smithing and Marcus suggests a future collaboration once his Turtleback Ferry business is done. On his way back to the boat, he has to remind himself to be faithful to Shayliss.

Zavian also goes ashore at Ilsurian to sell the salt, and notices himself being watched by the same stray dog that he’d seen watching him back in Magnimar as early as the Lord-Mayor’s feast. Yet every time he tries to catch the dog, it vanishes. He worries that some sinister being is tracking him.

Fireday, 8 Kuthona, 4733

From Ilsurian, they continue north up the Skull River. The Rune Wardens disembark from the Maiden’s Folly at the village of Pendaka. The rest of their journey is taken aboard the eponymous turtleback ferry, made from the shell of a giant turtle. The ferry takes them across Claybottom Lake to their destination.

It’s raining, and they learn from the ferryman that the winter rains have come early and haven’t let up. It’s the latest ill omen to strike the region. Some months ago, a pleasure boat named the Paradise sank in the lake, killing dozens including its proprietress. In the eerie Shimmerglens on the west bank of the lake, strange lights have been seen at night. And it’s been weeks since a patrol came down from Fort Rannick to the north.

After arriving at Turtleback Ferry, the party gets rooms at the only inn in town, the Turtle’s Parlor, while Marcus arranges accommodations for his wagons. The innkeeper, Cesten Orlandi, substantially overcharges them but Marcus doesn’t mind, as it seems the man gets little other business.

The Rune Wardens decide to wait several days in town for Lea to reunite with them after her adventures in Sandpoint.

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